Behe is right, and so what?

Give MIchael Behe credit. He has somehow managed to build a career as a “scientific” writer by taking ridiculously simple and trivial ideas, giving them a big fancy name, and selling it to the public as some major breakthrough.

First was “irreducible complexity”, which can be summarized as “If you break or remove some of the parts of a mechanical system, often it stops working.” Human beings have probably known this since pre-history. But thru savvy marketing, Behe managed to sell a lot of books to people who were convinced he had found scientific evidence for God.

Next came the “Edge of Evolution.” Here, he expounded on the radical (in his mind) idea that certain traits require so many mutations that they are highly unlikely to ever arise thru evolutionary mechanisms. To which one would be tempted to respond “Thank you for pointing that out to us, Captain Obvious. Here I was, wondering why no pigeons had yet evolved to have a functioning nuclear reactor powering their wings.” Yet, Behe made the rather audacious claim that by “too many mutations” he meant a number that could be as low as four. To which the response would then be: “Huh? Show me the math.” Which Behe tried to do, but rather ineptly, making errors that would have caused him to flunk a high school algebra exam. In the end this was another book that went nowhere.

So now he is back with another book and this time the marketing catchphrase is the "“First Rule of Adaptive Evolution”. What does this mean? A simple example will suffice to illustrate: When the first land animals emerged from fish-like ancestors, one of the changes that allowed this was that their fins became adapted to ambulating on land. But note what has happened! These rudimentary limbs are now much less-well adapted to swimming. A leg is nothing but a broken fin, IOW. And later, when some of the descendants of these early tetrapods developed the ability to fly, they could only do so by “breaking” their forelegs so that they now became wings, almost useless for walking, running, climbing or holding things.

That is to say rarely, if ever, do new adaptations evolve without the loss or diminution of some function that existed previously.

There are many other examples I could choose to cite, but hopefully that is sufficient to illustrate the point: Behe’s ““First Rule of Adaptive Evolution” is nothing more than a statement of a fact that has been obvious about evolution since the theory was first proposed, and which is evident even at the level of gross anatomy, never mind at the molecular level. As such, it presents no threat whatsoever to the theory of evolution, and does not even take the first step towards a demonstrable hypothesis of “intelligent design.”

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I’m not sure we should give him that even. About those polar bears…

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You know that piece of the skull where whales have their blowhole? There used to be bone and flesh there, and now there’s just a hole. Loss of flesh, loss of bone. It’s all loss.

If you get more webbing between your digits, you “lose” the space between them. A T nucleotide mutates to G? T was lost! A big insertion happens between T and G? Now the “close proximity” of that T and G was lost! It’s all loss and breakage. Devolution.

Here creationists typically proceed to defining evolution to be incapable of producing anything “new”. They will insist, for example, that incremental changes to a duplicate gene enhancing some function is at best “modification” of function. No “new information” can arise.

We can show the COMPLETE INSANITY of this position here with a simple thought experiment.

ACCAAATATAG
ACCAAATATA C <- No information was gained, because it’s just the same already existing sequence being modified.
ACCAAATAT T C <- No information was gained, because it’s just the same already existing sequence being modified.
ACCAAATA A TC <- No information was gained, because it’s just the same already existing sequence being modified.
ACCAAAT G ATC <- No information was gained, because it’s just the same already existing sequence being modified.
ACCAAA A GATC <- No information was gained, because it’s just the same already existing sequence being modified.
ACCAA C AGATC <- No information was gained, because it’s just the same already existing sequence being modified.
ACCA G CAGATC <- No information was gained, because it’s just the same already existing sequence being modified.
ACC T GCAGATC <- No information was gained, because it’s just the same already existing sequence being modified.
AC T TGCAGATC <- No information was gained, because it’s just the same already existing sequence being modified.
A A TTGCAGATC <- No information was gained, because it’s just the same already existing sequence being modified.
C ATTGCAGATC <- No information was gained, because it’s just the same already existing sequence being modified.

So we went from ACCAAATATAG to CATTGCAGATC which is a completely different sequence. The whole sequence incrementally changed, no “new” information gained. It was all just “sideways” evolution. Nothing “new”, no “progress”.

Oh, but if instead the sequence ACCAAATATAG already exists, and the designer just decides to create the sequence CATTGCAGATC out of nothing, only THEN it’s a gain of information. NOW the information is new.

The same sequence came to exist where before it did not. But if the designer magically instantiates it, THEN it’s new information. But if it incrementally evolves, it’s all, at best, just modification.

Checkmate, evilusionists!

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Well, not in that case. That’s a change in the shape of the skull that moves the nostrils. Same bones, same flesh, same hole. Just a different growth pattern.

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I’m not sure it is that insane. There is actually a logic to it that is stronger than this. I don’t like their strawmen arguments. We don’t have to resort to our own.

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Of course, I would say that any reasonable person could agree to that.

My point is that there isn’t any change we can’t describe as some sort of loss. The previous position of the hole was lost. If you’re really committed to this kind of loss-rhetoric you can render all kinds of change in the language of “devolution”.

The argument is partly rhetorical. We see this in how creationists typically talk about “new” information/genes/structures. They either refuse to define their terms, or they object to suggested instances of evolutionary novelty as being merely “modifications” at best, with nothing “new” generated.

And one way they do this is exemplified in their response to the idea of gene duplication and divergence. It is easy to find examples of creationists having argued like this, either explicitly or implicitly.

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Please enlighten me then.

I don’t like their strawmen arguments. We don’t have to resort to our own.

Would you like examples of creationists having argued like I have described? Look no further than here Mutations do not support the Theory of Evolution.
This isn’t some sort of fluke. I can give you multiple examples of various creationists arguing to this same effect. Including one who posts here.

Like Ken Ham here: Is there really a God? How would you answer? - creation.com

Can mutations produce new information?

Actually, it is now clear that the answer is no! Dr Lee Spetner, a highly qualified scientist who taught information and communication theory at Johns Hopkins University, makes this abundantly clear in his recent book:

In this chapter I’ll bring several examples of evolution, [i.e., instances alleged to be examples of evolution] particularly mutations, and show that information is not increased … But in all the reading I’ve done in the life-sciences literature, I’ve never found a mutation that added information.9
All point mutations that have been studied on the molecular level turn out to reduce the genetic information and not to increase it.10

The NDT [neo-Darwinian theory] is supposed to explain how the information of life has been built up by evolution. The essential biological difference between a human and a bacterium is in the information they contain. All other biological differences follow from that. The human genome has much more information than does the bacterial genome. Information cannot be built up by mutations that lose it. A business can’t make money by losing it a little at a time.’11

Evolutionary scientists have no way around the conclusions that many scientists, including Dr Spetner, have come to. Mutations do not work as a mechanism to fuel the evolutionary process.

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Creationist want to look at evolution as directional. So every step should be a step forward in the same direction. Anything else is seen as disproving evolution.

And that’s their basic misunderstanding.

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Exactly! The nice normal skull was hideously deformed and mutilated thru the destructive powers of Darwinian Evolution! Thus proving Behe was right, again!

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My favorite example is the evolution of bats. Around 49 MYA bats had genetic mutations which caused them to lose the ability to not fly! :wink:

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Another easy way to disprove the idiotic ID-Creationist claim “mutations can only lose information, not create it” is by showing them back mutations. Anything one mutation can do another later mutation can undo.

If ATAG --> ATAC is a loss of information then ATAC–> ATAG is gain of information by definition.

These are known to occur in real life (sometimes called reverse mutations) so the IDCers can’t claim this is just theoretical.

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If imitation is flattery, then there are a lot of Behe fans among the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis group. :wink:

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@Faizal_Ali

Thank you for helping to reinforce this point!

Tetrapods come up from the water with Gills… if the gills don’t change (de-volve!), tetrapods are going to continue walking around land with gushing, dripping gills… “nice”, huh?

Good work!